Top Ten

April 5, 2012

Athabasca U unions call for president's resignation

Athabasca University unions are demanding that president Frits Pannekoek resign over precarious finances and expensed attendance at political events for Alberta's Progressive Conservative party. Documents obtained by the CBC show members of 2 of Athabasca U's 3 unions representing faculty and support staff overwhelmingly passed a vote of non-confidence in the president. The unions are upset because their members are facing pay cuts and potential layoffs due to budget restraints. The unions blame Athabasca U's current fiscal challenges on what they say was a failed strategy to obtain more operating funding from the provincial government. The university's board chair says the board is fully behind Pannekoek, and that the institution is in "a very sound financial position." CBC

uOttawa prof files grievance over release of documents

University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran has filed a grievance against Diane Davidson, the university's VP of governance, after she agreed to release documents related to his research under Ontario's freedom of information law. "The defence of confidential information, within the limits prescribed by law, is a cornerstone of the academic freedom to conduct research," Attaran states in his grievance notice. "It is disappointing that Ms. Davidson has chosen not to protect that freedom to the utmost." The professor was the subject of a series of sweeping information requests filed in January, requests he says were politically motivated. Stating that uOttawa administrators had in the past protected him from requests for performance evaluations and expense reports, Attaran argues that the university has failed to take advantage of 2 provisions in the provincial access to information law. He says the law includes an "exclusion" that places all documents associated with a university professor's research outside the reach of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. He says the law also gives administrators the right to demand any examination of documents by the commissioner be done at the university. Ottawa Citizen

Quebec unveils new financial aid measures to assure PSE accessibility

The Quebec government proposed a new student aid policy Thursday to meet students' objections to a planned tuition fee increase. The new policy calls for the repayment of student loans proportionate to graduates' income. Even with the new measures to appease students concerned about paying for their university education, the province insists it will not budge from its position on the tuition fee increase. Several students told the CBC that the new policy does nothing to change their position, and that nothing short of a tuition fee freeze will suffice. Quebec News Release (in French) | Montreal Gazette | CBC

Failure to complete high school major barrier to PSE access, Senate report finds

A new Senate committee report examining both financial and non-financial factors of PSE observes that it is not the cost that prevents students from attending PSE, but the challenges of simply completing secondary school. Family life, social conditions, and quality of K-12 education are all major factors in PSE participation, according to the report. While tuition fees do play a role in decisions to pursue higher education, the report finds that there is funding in place to support those in need -- but all too often those financial aids go unclaimed. While education is a provincial responsibility, the report outlines more than 20 recommendations for the federal government to encourage Canadians to attend PSE. These include working with provincial education ministers on efforts to reduce the drop-out rate in high school, conducting an immediate review of the effectiveness of all education tax credits in increasing PSE accessibility, and implementing a national PSE strategy, which would include the creation of an independent Canada Education and Training Transfer to ensure there is dedicated funding for PSE and training. Report | Postmedia News

Alberta Tories pledge more medical training opportunities at uLethbridge

With a provincial election approaching, Alberta Premier Alison Redford announced in Lethbridge last week that a Progressive Conservative government would expand access to locally available medical training. The party states that more student spaces and pilot projects -- such as courses at the University of Lethbridge, in partnership with the University of Calgary -- would support the education of more doctors and rural physicians. One project component would see 14 students at a time taking courses at uLethbridge. Advanced Education Minister Greg Weadick says arrangements are being made to offer a full medical program in Lethbridge, through distance learning and in-person lectures. By 2015, Weadick says, there should be no need for medical students to leave southern Alberta. PC Alberta News Release | Lethbridge Herald

Lakehead looking to develop mining centre of excellence

Lakehead University is in the initial stages of developing a centre focusing on mineral exploration and sustainable mining development. President Brian Stevenson says the centre would bring faculty together to research mining and its implications from various sources. The institution hopes to address mining issues specific to northwestern Ontario. Stevenson hopes to have a formal proposal for the mining centre ready by this fall. CBC

Fleming redirecting ECE and PSW programs from Lindsay to Peterborough

Fleming College has decided to discontinue both the Early Childhood Education (ECE) and Personal Support Worker (PSW) programs at the Frost campus in Lindsay, Ontario. Financial constraints and low student numbers led college officials to review the program's viability, and it was decided that both programs would solely be offered at the Sutherland campus in Peterborough. Officials hope to grandfather current ECE students in Lindsay as the programs move to Peterborough. The current cohort of students in the 2-semester PSW program will graduate this year, so the program will continue in Peterborough only starting this fall. MyKawartha

UBC Vancouver campus proposes housing action plan

Given skyrocketing housing prices in Vancouver, UBC has released potential housing options designed to help develop more affordable housing on its Vancouver campus. The options include the possibility of discounted property purchases and rentals to encourage faculty, staff, and students to reside on campus. A proposed partnership with BC Housing would make UBC the first North American university to offer non-profit rental housing to eligible employees or faculty with an annual income below $64,000. The effort will inform a housing action plan that seeks to improve UBC's ability to compete with top universities and employers for the best and brightest minds, both internationally and locally, while helping to create a more sustainable, vibrant residential community. UBC Reports

Welcoming first foreign students this fall, Sault College officials go on international tour

Sault College officials, including president Ron Common, have been travelling to several Asian and African countries as the institution prepares to welcome its first international students this fall. In recent months, officials have travelled to China, South Korea, India, Nigeria, and Ghana, participating in international education fairs, attending school events, and speaking with prospective students. A follow-up trip to India and a visit to Bangladesh are scheduled for late May. Sault College's registrar hopes 10 to 20 international students will begin their studies at the institution in September. Sault Star

Wi-Fi use at Concordia hits record

Wi-Fi access at Concordia University has come a long way since it was first introduced, but the biggest increase in use since Wi-Fi has been available happened in 2011, following a major network expansion. More than 98,000 users accessed Concordia's wireless network last year. It's a new record for total users, with a surge of nearly 62% in the past 12 months. Last fall, campus Wi-Fi reached a peak of over 7,000 simultaneous users, whereas just the year before simultaneous connections never surpassed 5,000. The focus now is on increasing capacity and improving performance, says Concordia's director of infrastructure and operations. For the 2012-13 fiscal year, the university plans to add another 50 to 60 access points, says Concordia's CIO. Concordia News